It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay.
- Dennis Merritt Jones -
In working with childhood trauma, I think it’s important to understand some basic mainstream behaviors that generally show up repeatedly. A big one is co-dependency with its many tentacles.
I remember one day while taking a workshop in Idaho with Vianna Stibal many years ago (founder of ThetaHealing® Technique) where she was saying how people have become very uncaring with entitlement issues, like the ‘Me’ generation.
She continued, “I think everyone should be a little co-dependent so there is caring.”
I think my mouth dropped open, and I stopped breathing for a few seconds.
I have participated in 12-Step groups like CoDA (Co-dependency Anonymous) and Adult Children of Alcoholics back in the 80’s and 90’s. I knew that being co-dependent wasn’t a healthy, functional way to be. I wondered if Vianna understood what she had said, that perhaps she didn’t have another word for not being too independent that it creates a loss of connection, entitlement, and selfishness.
I went up to her after class, gently put my arm around her shoulders, and with deep caring, said, “Vianna, I don’t think you meant that people should be a little co-dependent. Do you mean people need to be interdependent?”
She was quiet and then looked at me like a light bulb went off. “I like that…I didn’t know there was a word for it. Hmmm…interdependent.”
And it’s been from that time that we’ve been given and give downloads about interdependency, what it is, what it feels like, how to be this way.
Experiencing interdependency allows for the recognition, value and importance of an emotional bond, safety, and intimacy that is mutually shared with others. There is a sense of maintaining ‘emotional solidity’ individually and within the relationship dynamic.
To be totally independent, keeps us in separation from others, and our needs for connection and belonging. It emphasizes the fear of losing our individuality and freedom in relationships.
In truth, we are all interconnected through Creator and the atoms that compose us. Understanding interdependency supports us to feel more connected to ourselves and others.
I’d like to define co-dependency and mention some of the characteristics, because it’s really broad-based in permeating our lives, relationships, the way we feel about ourselves, our work, healing, and spirituality.
From the early years of recognition, it was initially about people in relationships whose family members were addicted to alcohol or drugs. It has evolved to describe people from any dysfunctional family, with or without drugs, who engage in behaviors that keep them disconnected from themselves.
Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. The structure is built upon getting one’s emotional and self-esteem needs and expectations met by relying on another to be responsible for this. This can be conscious or unconscious. It entails projecting outside oneself. The core self feels separated, shattered, and/or disconnected from the body and psyche. This is what trauma and loss create.
People adapt to this trauma and separation by operating from addictive modes, and/or create other unhealthy behavior or coping mechanisms. For example, a common experience in our society is serial monogamy–going from one romantic relationship to another. This often occurs without clearing the issues and patterns from the previous relationship. Instead, they move on to the next romantic pursuit. This is a rebounding response and is considered relationship addiction.
Some characteristics of co-dependency are: low self esteem (which can be acted out as overachieving as well); poor boundaries; people pleasing; reactive communication (projection or withdrawal); care-taking; controlling; dependency; obsessiveness; inability to ask for help; isolation; denial of issues presented; issues dealing with painful emotions and intimacy.
What we think is a healthy family often isn’t even close. I’m not saying there isn’t love and care present, but how it is expressed may not be what these two virtues are about at all. How to communicate in healthy ways isn’t necessarily taught or learned in family structures.
While the media, movies and entertainment exemplify so much addiction to drama and mind programming, it’s rare to experience something different unless we take courses, read personal growth books, can identify the behaviors, and work on new skills and beliefs.
I think I’ve seen a healthy family unit less than 5 times in my life. I was so excited. I could feel the love and how the parents related and communicated to each other and the children. It wasn’t about perfection either. There was an honesty and openness that just permeated their authentic relationship.
Some of the characteristics are: Affirming and supporting each member; quality time together; teaching and practicing mutual and self respect; learning and implementing trust building skills—honesty, boundaries, personal and family space; constructive and open communication; looking out for each other without covering up issues; ability to resolve problems and difficulties as they come up by all being heard; shared responsibilities of the home environment and with each other; moral and ethical code that is open for explanations and discussion; values time together as a unit; safe place to grow and be seen for who each member is; spiritual or faith practices.
A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored, denied and/or projected. These kinds of families have either spoken or unspoken rules that create havoc on the mental or emotional states of the members. And each member will usually respond in a different way…no one wants the same ‘piece of pie’, so they develop their own coping mechanism or survival strategy to move forward.
As a result, children learn to repress or project emotions and disregard their own needs, thus develop coping behaviors and identity roles that keep them from their authentic self as they get older. This leads to co-dependency.
I find that this issue of co-dependency is so prevalent among practitioners in the healing arts and their clients, particularly around sharing advice. Isn’t that why clients come to us? We are intuitive readers. We are feelers. We are seers. Our clients want our advice. Or do they?
In ThetaHealing, we are told not to give advice unless it’s unconditional–directly from Creator. And even in this, clients who have issues of codependency (and trauma) will ask the same kind of questions over and over because the skills of inner trust, self esteem and self confidence haven’t been developed.
Then there is the practitioner who isn’t hearing the answer directly from Creator and just wants the clients to ‘feel better’. Wanting the best for our clients is noble and caring, but giving advice to them when they need to experience inner growth around their choices and decisions, becomes codependency.
I once had a client who would ask me to ask Creator what protein bars, water systems, and beef jerky would be the best for her. These kinds of questions would happen every week. I finally had to tell her that she could research on her own time but we needed to work on trusting her choices and decisions. There was deep fear that her choices would make her a ‘bad’ person or cause harm to herself or others.
It’s important to be aware that some of the Creator’s teachings we ‘suggest’ in not really ‘listening’ to Creator during the process, could compound co-dependency. For example, teaching a client that ‘they can save the world’ can lead to some difficult lessons around martyrdom or savior issues. It would be more appropriate to teach them that ‘they can participate in the transformation of the world’.
I’ve heard Creator tell me to change teachings in mid-stream several times. I would immediately tell the client that Creator wanted to cancel that and reinstate a new one. I didn’t let egotism impede what the client really needed through Creator. Working on my own issues allowed me to easily be honest without feeling embarrassment or ashamed.
Test and look at these simple beliefs connected to co-dependency:
‘I have to heal (or save) my family (client) before I take care of myself.’
‘Taking care of myself is one of my weaknesses.’
‘My family’s (spouse’s, others’) needs have to supersede my own.’
‘Other people’s needs are more important than my own.’
‘I can be a priority in my life without feeling selfish or guilty.’
‘If I’m a priority in my life, my family will leave or reject me.‘
‘I have to control the outcome of every situation.’
These beliefs, if present and worked on, lead to a deeper understanding of how co-dependency affects us, and how to work with clients or our own self exploration.
It will also show why we are in relationships in the present where we might not feel appreciated, not heard or not seen. Working within the family structure will open up so much insight into the patterns. One of the first questions I will ask in digging on a new client is: “What was your relationship with your mother and father?” It gets them down the rabbit hole quickly.
In the family, there can be many internal roles that the family will take on which become false personas. Some of these roles I have categorized together. Some may initially appear to be healthy functionally until the shadow aspects are fully explored. These can include the following, which I separated into groups connected to the Drama Triangle:
Group 1: The helpless, the victim, the boundary-less one, the sacrificial lamb, the survivor, the hostage, the hidden, the black sheep
Group 2: The pleaser, the do-gooder, the savior, the rescuer, the giver, the listener, the overly-responsible one, the peacekeeper, the mediator, the humorous teaser, the over-achiever
Group 3: The taker, the talker, the boss, the enforcer, the controller, the critic, the judge, the persecutor, the bully, the rebel, the perfectionist
In communicating and interacting with others, these three groups can further be refined into what is called the Drama Triangle where there are 3 positions people relate from with each other. The Triangle models the differences between hierarchal power positions that happen during conflicts and personal responsibility in moving away from unhealthy, habitual and destructive roles that people play out:
Group 1: The Victim
Group 2: The Rescuer (Enabler)
Group 3: The Persecutor
And in essence, all are aspects of The Victim using different coping mechanisms. To liberate from the triangle is to realize what is occurring and extricate oneself from the situation.
If you haven’t explored co-dependency, I find it essential that we are actually doing some kind of extra reading and self-education on this topic (and any other issue that could come up in a session). There are many wonderful Youtube sites, books and podcasts.
Next month, I’ll be discussing family expectations, motivations that come from co-dependency with a list a questions to feel into that could help you to look more deeply into identifying these behaviors that keep you from experiencing your authentic self.
Give yourself some time to reflect or work on the beliefs if they show up for you. Get someone to trade with you if you’ve taken a ThetaHealing course/s or consider a session. We all need support as we do things interdependently.
With care and blessings,
Helpful Creator’s teachings/downloads
I know what it feels like to, how to, when to, that it’s possible, that I can, I do (or I am/am able to be):
- Importance of identifying my needs
- I know what my needs are separate from what my family’s needs are
- Feeling emotionally solid in my life by taking care of needs
- The strength I gain in taking care of myself
- Balancing my needs with those close to me
- To live without being co-dependent to care about my needs or others’ needs
- Be the true power in my life
- Be authentic rather than play contrived roles to move through conflict
- Move through difficulties being authentic to myself
- I trust Creator to support the highest and best outcome of situation by being responsible for my actions